St. Louis school officials to push for statewide bond issue

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Missouri voters should be asked to authorize a statewide bond issue to raise $2 billion for schools, with half of the proceeds to provide matching grants for technology and building improvements, St. Louis school officials said.

"We have got to do something bold for education funding," Steven Carroll, a legislative lobbyist for the St. Louis Public Schools, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial board Monday.

Interest from the other half of the proposed bond issue would pay for programs for teachers and students, officials said during that meeting that included St. Louis schools Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds Jr., School Board President Bill Purdy and board member Marlene Davis.

They have asked several Missouri lawmakers to consider sponsoring or backing the proposal, which would require a constitutional amendment, during the coming legislative session.

The bonds would be paid off over 20 years or sooner with money from a one-fourth of 1 percent surcharge to the state income tax and the use of any future Hancock Amendment refunds to taxpayers.

Other proposals include tax credits and other pay incentives for teachers; a project to offer a pre-kindergarten program for up to 1,500 4-year-olds statewide; a requirement that districts have policies dealing with bullying; and grants to help districts pay for gang-resistance education.

While saying he was aware of the tight budget facing Missouri lawmakers, Carroll said "we have to be the conscience of the legislators."

Brent Ghan, a Missouri School Boards Association spokesman, said that group would back a measure leading to statewide support for school construction.

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